So, 2007? Not my favorite year. Too many people lost, too much pointless violence and idiocy, too little love.
But the one thing on which I can always depend, live music, came through yet again.
In that spirit, I’m going to share my personal favorite live music experiences of 2007, in hopes that it will make you take a moment to remember your favorite shows, or the things that did shine through and make your year past worthwhile.
Here’s the list shows that saved my ass in 2007:
Greg Dulli and friends – ‘A Drink for the Kids’ benefit at the Triple Door, 2nd night 10/4: I never thought I’d get to see Mr. Dulli in such a setting, and still can’t believe that I have. The second night was the raucous one, where everything came together musically and energy-wise, and I was thrilled to get the chance to hear “Front Street” both nights, a song off of the forthcoming Gutter Twins record, which I strongly suspect will be my favorite record of 2008.
Queens of the Stone Age – Bakersfield 7/23, Boise 7/27, Portland 12/17: Yeah, I know, that’s cheating, putting 3 shows in one. Frankly, I don’t give a crap. These are my boys, and I miss them like mad when they’re not on the road, so their return with a new record was one the highlights of my whole damned year. I saw the whole West Coast leg of “The Duluth Tour”, so why’d I pick these shows? Well, there was just *something* special about Bakersfield. It was the first of the small venue shows, and the looks on the guys’ faces during the first few songs was relief/amazement, as they realized via the crowd’s reaction that the small venues were the absolutely right choice to make. Boise was memorable because everything had come together: a enthusiastic but not brutish crowd, all cylinders were finely tuned and firing perfectly musically, and even the environment (both club and weather outside) just seemed suited to this band. The show was loose, crisp, and solidly fun (an appearance by Mr. Hughes didn’t hurt that at all). Finally, Portland is near to my heart for having one of the best Queens’ crowds I’ve seen yet (I haven’t met a PDX crowd yet that I don’t love), for finally getting to hear “In the Fade” again (it’s not nice to make a girl cry on her birthday, but this time, it was certainly okay), and for the generally snarkiness and playfulness happening on stage and with the audience. (Though I’m *still* laughing at the Rick Astley lyrical nod from the Seattle show.) And somehow, I managed to hear “Fun Machine” live at least 5 times, each version miles better than the previous.
Bjork – Sasquatch 5/26: Stellar. There are few words adequate, really. I’d been told by folks whom I admire to see her for years, but only got my first chance this year. She’s now on my “must see whenever possible” list.
Bad Brains – Sasquatch 5/27: One of the bands that I’d always wanted to see, but figured I’d never get the chance to experience. Have never been more glad to be wrong. Now, if I could only see them in a club (though this festival experience had a crowd that really got into it and made it feel like a smaller club show).
Goon Moon – Chop Suey 12/6: Having only had one other opportunity to see Mr. Chris Goss play live (as part of Desert Sessions at Coachella a few years ago), this was one of my most anticipated shows of the year, and it was *amazing*. I mean, just fucking astounding. Getting to watch Mr. Goss, whose work I have admired for years, and figuring out how he coaxes a certain sound out of a guitar as his voices soars, was one of the year’s finest pleasures. It was also very edifying to see Jeordie White step into the spotlight on his own, a circumstance in which he truly flourishes, and it’s something he needs to do more often. Come back, Goon Moon! We’ll make sure the club is packed to the rafters this time, as you deserve.
Common Market – Sasquatch 5/27, Neumo’s Mamafest 2/26: Simply put, the Mamafest show was my most surreal show moment of the year. Girls in ski gear, hula hooping to Common Market’s political flow, was one of the few moments I’ve wished I had a video camera with me at a show. And yes, local and now national media have been talking about it for a over a year, but in one moment at Sasquatch, shooting the show from the rail and turning around and seeing the whole crowd, as far as I could see, hands raised and completely involved, was when I knew that Seattle hip hop had arrived.
Saturday Knights – Havana 6/16, Oktoberfest 9/22: No one, and I mean NO ONE, is bringing the fun like this anymore, especially in Seattle. They are the breath of fresh air for which this town has been waiting. It’s supposed to be fun people, and the Saturday Knights will not let us forget it for a second. Look out, world, they’re coming soon, to an everywhere near you.
Spoon – the Beach House and then The Showbox (with Black Joe Lewis), 9/5: Though I’ve listened to Spoon since the beginning and really fell for them right around the time of Girls Can Tell, the tour for Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga has been the first time I’ve been truly drawn into their live shows. Something’s shifted, somehow simultaneously tightened and loosened, and now going to see them has become irresistible. This is another band that I saw several times last year, but two shows in one day stand out. They played a quick, informal radio station set at the the Beach House about 2 blocks from my apartment, and they were sharp, funny, effortless pros that just rocked the few people there back on their heels. Then, I walked home, hopped into the car and headed down to the Showbox, where I ran across the soul sensation that is Black Joe Lewis, an introduction that leaves me eternally in Spoon’s debt. (I just learned that Jim Eno is currently producing Lewis’ next record, which makes me inexpressibly giddy.) Then, standing amongst people from an array of Seattle bands and scenes, I watched Spoon take the stage and simply dominate with their crisp, undeniable, take-no-prisoners style, and knew that there would be no going back — they would now, finally, be huge, in the new and best sense of the world. The other bands present saw it too, and I wonder if there wasn’t a little paradigm shift that will become evident in some of 2008’s local releases as a result. And leaving the venue, I found myself more than a little sad, knowing I’d likely never see them in such a small venue again, and would now have one hell of a time watching the genius that is the drumming of Jim Eno.
The Cops/The Whore Moans – High Dive 4/7: How many times did I see The Cops this year? Have lost count. This show stands out because it was such a marked contrast with the live radio broadcast that they did earlier in the evening. While that performance for radio was controlled and sounded fine, it was the raucous release of the late show that revealed the band I love — and I suspect that the craziness of the Whore Moans set preceding played a key factor.
Tall Birds/The Cops – Comet Tavern 6/7: Again, these two bands together, at The Comet? Rock ‘n’ roll chaos on the best way. Stacks were climbed, pitchers were spilled and thrown, and eardrums were decimated in the most delightful way. More shows like this, please!
Nine Inch Nails – Blaisdell Arena, Honolulu 9/18: I was thrilled to get to see the one and only North American date of the Year Zero tour, and only regret that I didn’t get to see the YZ songs played live more than just once. The main attraction of this show for me was getting to see this specific line-up play together one last time, and I can’t help but feel that even though Trent no doubt has fascinating music in store for us, he’s going to miss the sound and fury this combination of guys created, and hope he reconsiders and reconvenes them at some point in the future.
Crowded House – Pabst Theater, Milwaukee 8/17: Crowded House was the first band that I found all on my own growing up, and they hold a tremendously dear place in my heart. I loved, loved, LOVED them, always will, and when I missed their last London shows by a few days over 10 years ago, I was heartbroken. I held slim hopes that I’d ever get to see them live, particularly after Hessie passed, so that when this tour was announced, I just sat down and cried. A trip back home fortuitously coincided with their Milwaukee show, and never has seeing a show felt more perfectly timed. A band that I loved but thought I’d never see, playing a show so close to the place where I grew up dreaming of seeing them, in a venue that holds lovely memories — unthinkable. And to arrive, and find a fantastic audience and the band in rare form? I didn’t believe moments like that existed, or at least not that they existed for me. But they do, and I finally get it: patience can actually be rewarded.
Neil Young – WaMu Theater 10/23: Finally, Neil. Going into it, my expectations were a bit low. A tour in a venue that I find barn-like, at best, full of a corporate crowd that were there because they got a discount on tickets and thought it might be a fun night to get out of the house, have some drinks and talk with friends…and oh yeah, there’d be this legendary guy playing. When I got there and made my way to my pricey seat, things weren’t looking up: my 7th row seat was much further back from the stage than I’d ever seen, with an inexplicably huge 20 foot gulf between the front row and the stage, a seat mate to the right with what sounded like a miserable, painful cold, and a seat mate to the left talking loudly on her cellphone until the guy behind and I finally got her to hang up and shut up. But I stayed and kept paying attention, because I knew it would be worthwhile, because it’s Neil. And of course, it was. The solo set offered songs I’d never imagined I’d hear live, and his voice cut through the cavernous sound and the constant murmur of the chatty idiots, to ring truer than any other sound I heard all year. The second set is where things suddenly became electrifying (no pun intended), as a small group of us were listening to the the band rock out and looked around, then at each other, and simply walked into the space between the chairs and the stage and for the first time that whole evening actually felt like I was at a Rock Show. A whole crowd of people quickly filled in the rest of the open space, singing and dancing all, and the crowd and band could finally interact and feed off of each other, the way it must be to allow a show to work. If you know me, you know that Neil is like food, water, air to me, and to finally, after countless times seeing Neil, to be that close and get the chance to examine Old Black and try to figure out how the hell Neil gets the sound he does…well, it was a life-defining moment. I don’t know that I’ll ever get a more gratifying Neil moment than that one. I still feel privileged to have been there.